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Gettysburg has always had "a very strong creative community," according to resident Chris Lauer, 33.

"It's kind of under the surface, but it's always been there," the painter and print-maker said. "There are incredible artists and incredible musicians, and for the most part, they just didn't have a center or a place to connect, meet, hang out and collaborate."

Lauer and a crew of other creatives are changing that.

Waldo's and Company is an art and music-focused group that recently made a basement at 17 Lincoln Square its permanent home, hosting live entertainment and giving artists a place to share their work. Lauer, who founded the co-op, said its mission is "enjoying community, advancing culture and fostering creativity."

"I think that this has in a lot of ways answered that need for a creative living room," he said.

On Dec. 18, Waldo's will present its second Holiday Jamboree at the new location, offering a family-friendly evening of local bands, Christmas carols, treats, presents and a visit from Santa Claus. The fun starts at 8 p.m.

"We will be boiling over with Christmas joy and decorations," Lauer said. "It's time for neighbors to celebrate with neighbors."

Waldo's was born in Lauer's art studio and warehouse on North Stratton Street several years ago.

"It was in extreme disrepair," Lauer said of the former location. "I spent about a year on my own just kind of fixing it up and making it into a homey little studio where I could do art and invite people to hang out and see what's going on. A year into that, I had several friends that really got involved and decided it could be something much bigger and greater."

Lauer started welcoming other artists to use his studio, hosting local bands and  "kind of inviting the community to come in and hang out and spend time."

"It slowly became this weird little cultural niche of Gettysburgians hanging out with art and music," he said.

Unfortunately the sprucing up the building needed was beyond the group's abilities and finances. The basement on Lincoln Square below Lark Gifts became available around the same time Waldo's decided to look for another home.

Initially the landlord allowed Waldo's to rent out the basement for shows in October 2014, and in November it officially became the permanent Waldo's and Company space.

The venue consists of several nooks and crannies designed for arts and gathering.

There's a coffee bar facing the stage and seating area.  Homemade sodas and coffee cost whatever a visitor cares to give. If a person can't pay for a drink, the tip jar covers it.

A book store that doubles as an art gallery includes a vast collection of classic fiction and board games, accented by an olive green piano and glowing Lite-Brite.

A dark room and five studios are available for photographers and artists to rent. Another portion of Waldo's offers creative equipment for public use, such as a printing press.

Lauer said yoga classes and a pottery studio are in the works, as well as an improv troupe.

"There are a lot of things kind of up in the air, but it's really meant to be a community space that supports the creative artists, musicians and performers here," he said. "It's really up to the community what they want to put in here and what they want to do."

Like the coffee bar, admission to shows is a suggested donation.

"Every dollar that gets spent here goes to this place or artists and musicians," Lauer said.

Waldo's primary tenets include offering all ages entertainment and a substance-free environment.

"People misinterpret that and think, well, it's because we couldn't get our (liquor) license - no," Lauer said. "We expressly want to have a space that supports people of all ages and encourages arts that are apart from substance. People often connect musicians and alcohol or artists and pot. I want to separate the two and say one can be creative without those things."

Jon Dixon, 30, of Gettysburg loves bringing his family to Waldo's.

"I have kids and I'm married," Dixon said. "We pop in several times a week or every now and again. It's fun to just hang out and have a place to come with the kids, especially now that the weather is kind of gross."

"It's super community-like," he said. "It's a nice community to be a part of."

That community is made possible by a board of directors and a large number of volunteers.

"For the record, I get entirely too much credit," Lauer said. "There are a lot of people involved. I'm just the one who talks the most."

Waldo's and Company is open Wednesday through Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m. 

If you go:

What: Waldo's and Company presents "A Holiday Jamboree"

When: Dec. 18

Address: 17 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg

Admission: Suggested donation of $5 to $10 at the door

More info: Visit waldosandcompany.com

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